TR: Kaweah Basin, 08/2014

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TR: Kaweah Basin, 08/2014

Post by tomba » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:24 pm

I looked around. So this is Kaweah Basin? I felt disappointed.

A few days earlier I saw it from Tawny Point near Wright Lakes and then from Wales Lake outlet. It seemed wooded. Not what I like, but perhaps the trees were sparser than they appeared.

Early afternoon that day I crossed Kern-Kaweah River above Picket Creek confluence, walked over smooth slabs, bushwhacked, and started climbing the west side of the creek that drains Kaweah Basin (map link). It was harder than expected. At one point I had to take off the pack and hoist it on a line. Subsequent climb above the small brown-green lake at 3080+ m was easier. I entered the basin at the lake with two islands.

I have been looking forward to this. Now, finally, I was entering the fabled Kaweah Basin.

Oh, no. At the lake with two islands the rock changed. It became sharp white metamorphic instead of rounded granite. Such rock tends to fracture in straight lines. It is harder to walk on. I had to watch my step more carefully. I don't like that kind of rock. Since it erodes differently than granite the landscape forms are different. More angular. West from the lake the stream cut a rectangular channel. A typical shape with this kind of rock. It occurred to me that perhaps the uniqueness of the landforms is the reason why people like this basin so much.

The sky was cloudy with a storm brewing over Kaweahs. I walked among trees that poked out of the white rock. The trunks and roots often pushed pieces of it aside. The forest was very sparse, fortunately. Actually, pretty nice for a while. I hiked to about 3300 m elevation where I found a sheltered campsite that should not become flooded if it rained at night.

So far this basin didn't appeal to me much.

The next morning the sky was clear. At sunrise I watched the orange light descend on the Kaweahs. I left the camp and slowly wandered until I reached the small rise north from the largest lakes. Along the way, above timberline, the landscape became quite nice - wide open with small meadows, lakes, and hills. Up close, impressive Kaweahs raised from the valley over milky turquoise lakes.

I looped around the southern side of the basin, passing more small clear rocky lakes, and returned to the camp at noon. Some cumulus clouds started growing. I quickly ate my typical meal of mostly chocolate, nuts, and seeds, packed up, and went up Picket Creek Pass.

Kaweah Basin turned out quite nice after all.

I saw no people there, but I found signs of people. An aluminum round canteen above the small lake below the basin, grapefruit(!) peels near the lake with two islands, and the strangest: a shining colorful mylar balloon, partly filled with clear water, sealed, and placed deliberately under a tree. Oh, and, surprisingly, the remote trail along Kern-Kaweah River had plenty of horse droppings.

The upcoming meetup prompted me to post this mini TR here. Some more info about nearby area:

Most of Picket Creek valley is the same sharp white metamorphic rock. What is it called? The lowest part of the valley is nice granite.

I left Picked Creek valley through "Picket Guard Col" (map link). Click on pins for more info (if blank, reload the page). Later I crossed Milestone Pass, explored headwaters of Kern River, and returned to Shepherd Pass TH.

Kaweahs (click to enlarge):
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Re: TR: Kaweah Basin, 08/2014

Post by RoguePhotonic » Thu Feb 12, 2015 7:03 am

I looked around. So this is Kaweah Basin? I felt disappointed.
I feel the same way. I enjoy the lake at the end of Picket Guard Creek and I would go back there over the years but other than a nice looking set of peaks Kaweah Basin is so barren offering little in nice places to camp. I didn't feel there was anything special there especially how difficult it is to get into.

I don't have any plans to go back.

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Re: TR: Kaweah Basin, 08/2014

Post by tanngrisnir3 » Thu Feb 12, 2015 7:23 am

I'm interested in it because I've seen it shot in the right conditions and it's amazing looking.

Unfortunately, with both of us working in entertainment/IP law in L.A., there never seems to be enough time off to consider it reachable.

Thanks for the report!

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Re: TR: Kaweah Basin, 08/2014

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Feb 13, 2015 7:41 pm

I have only been in Kaweah Basin late September. It was so dry that most of the shallow lakes were gone. There also was a forest fire burning to the west so the sky was a bit hazy. I was not that impressed, but I could see that earlier in the season just after snowmelt with everything green a lots of water and clear skies- it would be more impressive. Another problem with very late season was the sun was so low that all the cliffs were in shadows all day. I hope I can make the meet-up. I would like to see the basin in better conditions.

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Re: TR: Kaweah Basin, 08/2014

Post by sekihiker » Mon Aug 12, 2019 7:16 pm

I'm sad that you didn't feel the magic of the Kaweah Basin.
I'm too old to return, but if I could, I'd go back in a heartbeat.

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